Glossary of College Terms You Need to Know

Academic Advisor
An academic mentor who guides your student through their degree. Advisors assist with course registration, make sure your student is taking the right courses in the right order, and helps them make important academic decisions. Every first-year student is assigned an advisor. When a student declares a major, they receive a new advisor in that department.

Academic Probation
A status colleges give to students who are struggling to pass courses. Academic probation is used to warn students that they need to improve their performance. Students on academic probation may lose scholarships or become ineligible for university sports.

An alteration to a space, assignment, or method of learning that allows an individual to gain access to content and/or complete assigned tasks.

An accredited university or college is certified to provide a high-quality education in the United States. Most employers and graduate programs only consider degrees from accredited schools.

A standardized test used by schools to help determine if they will admit your student or not. The ACT is typically taken in the spring of the junior year of high school, and/or the fall of the senior year of high school.

Add/Drop Period
A grace period at the beginning of each semester during which your student can decide to add or drop a course with no penalty.

AP Course
An Advanced Placement (AP) course is a class your student can take in high school that could earn them credit toward their college degree. AP classes are typically more rigorous than regular classes. Classes culminate in AP exams in the spring.

APA/Chicago/MLA Style
Professors often ask their college students to write papers or reports in a specific writing style. The most common of these are APA (American Psychological Association), Chicago Style, and MLA (Modern Language Association). These styles have their own formats for citing sources, formatting documents, and pagination. Be sure to refresh yourself on each style before you write a paper!

This is the term for all the materials your student will fill out and submit to apply for admission to a college.

Area Coordinator
An on-campus housing professional, employed by the university to oversee safety and programming in a specific residence hall.

Assistant Professors
Individuals who have been hired on the tenure track, but have some publishing criteria before they can be considered “full professors.”

Associate Professor
Mid-level professorial rank. These positions are usually tenured.

Associate’s Degree
A degree you can earn in 2–3 years, typically from online or community colleges. The credits earned from this degree can usually be transferred to a 4-year Bachelor’s degree. Many states have (or are developing) direct pipelines to support the transfer of credits from CC’s to 4-year state schools.

Award Letter
Named differently across colleges such as financial aid offer, merit letter, award letter, or financial aid package. This document includes information about how much a year of school costs, the amount you are responsible for covering, grants, scholarships, loans, and work study.

A way for a student to take a course they’re interested in without earning credit, or without having the grade affect their GPA.

Bachelor’s Degree
A 4-year degree, usually in the form of either a Bachelor of Arts (in a Liberal Arts program) or Bachelor of Science (in an applied learning program such as engineering).

A list of books and articles referenced in your essay or project, typically appended to the end of the document (last page). A bibliography is customary or required in academic writing to grant legitimacy to each other’s writing.

Bright Futures
A state of Florida scholarship based on GPA and test scores. Maintaining eligibility for this scholarship is dependent on passing a full-time amount of courses every academic year.

Bursar’s Office
The role of the bursar is to be the top person responsible for financial administration within a school. You can go to the Bursar’s office when you are having an issue regarding tuition and fees, Florida Prepaid, and non-tuition charges.

Campus Recreation
Offers intramural (non-competitive) sports teams, group fitness classes, swimming lessons and SCUBA certifications, personal training, outdoor adventure trips (kayaking, hiking, etc.)

Campus Visit
When you and our student visit campus, you usually go on a tour to see all the facilities. This is also a chance to meet faculty and ask questions.

Capital Improvement Fee
Colleges and Universities often charge students a capital improvement fee to promote campus development.

Career Services
Most universities have a career services department where your student can get career advice and assistance in finding internships and beginning the job hunt for after graduation.

Academic programs available to students with or without a degree that allow students to obtain a level of expertise in a field of work or study.

While in nursing school, students through clinicals in which you attend lectures and participate in supervised sessions in real-world healthcare scenarios.

Refers to any program, dormitory, or activity that includes all genders. This term is typically used to describe dorms that have both boys and girls living on the same floor.

College Career Coach
A person who personally guides your student in choosing a career to work toward after college. They also help your student choose the right courses, degree, internships, and more to reach that goal. A college career coach may be made available on-campus at the career services center, or your student can hire one privately.

College Fair
Where high school students can go to meet with representatives from different colleges and learn about what each school has to offer. College fairs are typically held at high schools, community facilities, and conference centers, and are usually in the spring.

CLEP (College-Level Examination Program)
Offered by the College Board, provides 34 exams for introductory level college courses. You take the exams at official CLEP test centers and earn college credit at a discounted price.

A graduation ceremony for high school or college students.

Community Closet, Career Closet
Similar to a food pantry, colleges and community centers may offer a collection of business professional clothing for free or for a very discounted price.

Community College
A school that typically requires only a high school degree to attend, with no further requirements. Students can take one-off courses or pursue Associate’s degrees at community colleges. Often, credits from a community colleges can be transferred to a 4-year university.

Coreq (Co-requisite)
Courses that must be taken at the same time as a matching course.

Course Load
The number of courses, or total credit hours, your student takes in any given semester.

Course Number
The identification number your college or university uses to classify a course. You usually need this number in order to register for a class. See section number.

Credit Hour
Each course is assigned a certain number of credit hours, usually corresponding to how often class occurs and how long classes are, as well as the course difficulty. Many classes earn a student 3 to 4 credit hours.

CV (Curriculum Vitae)
A document detailing all of your academic credentials. CVs are often required for applicants to academic grants, research opportunities, and fellowships.

The head or president of a college or university.

Dean’s List
A regularly issued list of students who have achieved high academic excellence. Qualification for the Dean’s List varies from school to school.

A degree is the final result of a college education. It’s awarded when a student earns a certain number of qualifying credit hours. Examples of degrees include Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, Master of Business Administration, a PhD, Associate’s, and more.

Refers to a certain section of a university. Departments are usually aligned with degrees or areas of study within a college, such as the engineering department, English department, etc.

In terms of financial aid, the money from your aid source that is often paid directly to your school.

Often indicated in a course schedule under “D”, these supplemental courses are required in tandem with another course. The most common being Intro to Philosophy, where you will register for and attend a lecture multiple times per week and attend a discussion once per week. This structure may vary by college, but the important thing to remember is that if this is required for the course, you must attend. Discussions will be lead by TAs, and are usually the time where papers and assignments are explained.

Usually refers to a doctoral dissertation, and is typically required for a PhD. A dissertation is the result of academic research that results in an original contribution to the student’s chosen field of study. Sometimes referred to as a thesis.

Distance Learning
Also known as long-distance learning, this term refers to classes taken remotely, away from the college which offers the classes. These often include online classes.

Doctorate (PhD)
PhD stands for Doctorate of Philosophy. This doesn’t just apply to students studying philosophy — a doctorate is part of a post-graduate program, which means it can be pursued after a student has received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. A doctoral dissertation is typically required to receive a PhD.

On-campus student living facilities — not required but commonly used by freshmen and sophomores. Most dorm living is connected with a meal plan, and is covered by a room & board payment.

When a student leaves a course during the Add/Drop grace period, it’s referred to as dropping. There is no penalty for dropping a course during the grace period. Students may decide to drop because they are overwhelmed by their course load or want to take a different class. This is different than withdrawing, which comes after the add/drop period is over.

Earn to Learn FL Near Peer Coach
A current college student or recent college graduate who serves as a positive role model, promotes college and career readiness, and provides positive reinforcement to students. The goal of the Earn to Learn FL Near Peer Coach is to increase the number of high school students who enroll and complete postsecondary education in Florida.

Earn to Learn FL Personal Finance Training (PFT)
Earn to Learn FL’s Personal Finance Training empowers students to acquire knowledge, build habits and gain the confidence they need to make smarter everyday financial decisions. PFT helps students gain the confidence they need to make sound financial decisions and empowers them to achieve their financial goals beyond high school and college.

Most Bachelor’s Degrees require a student to complete a combination of specific courses and electives. Electives are courses the student chooses to take from a list of offerings that fulfill general education requirements.

The staff of professors and instructors at a university.

Stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the first step in applying for financial aid, and most universities require incoming students to complete the FAFSA form.

Stands for Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This act gives college students the right of privacy over the school records, even if they’re under 18. This means you, as their parents, cannot access their academic information, such as their grades. There is an exception for health and safety information: If a college feels it would be important to share that sort of information with you, they are allowed to.

Exams at the end of a semester that test a student’s knowledge on everything covered in a course. Finals are usually weighted more heavily than other exams and coursework.

Financial Aid
Refers to any type of student loan, scholarship, or grant your student receives to help pay for college.

Financial Need
This is determined by the difference between the cost of college and the student’s ability to pay for it. Typically, this takes into account the ability of the student’s parents to help pay for school, as well.

First Generation College Student
A student who is the first in their family to attend college. The term first generation college student typically refers to a student whose parents didn’t earn a college degree.

First Generation Offices
Help you with accessing resources that remove barriers to college success and connecting with other first generation students for support and leadership.

Florida Prepaid Scholarship
The scholarship you receive from Earn to Learn FL was purchased from Florida Prepaid with you as the beneficiary.

Florida Prepaid Survey
To keep your Florida Prepaid Account active, you need to fill out an annual survey every year. To fill out your Florida Prepaid Survey, click here.

Florida 529 Savings Plan
A Florida 529 Savings Plan is a flexible, affordable, tax-free way to save for college. High school juniors and seniors who income-qualify may be eligible to save up to $500 in their Florida 529 Savings Plan each year and have their savings matched at least 8:1 by Earn to Learn FL. Earn to Learn FL, in partnership with Florida Prepaid College Foundation, doubles the impact of non-government funds donated to Earn to Learn FL for scholarships at the 8:1 ratio.

Food Pantry
Many colleges will house a food pantry on campus or nearby campus to address student food insecurity. Often, they will only require that you present your student ID and maybe fill out some forms.

A social organization for college men. Many fraternities operate their own houses where members live and host events.

Full Time College Student
A student who is taking a full course load, typically 12 or more credits.

Gap Year
A year-long break between high school and college.

General Education Requirements
Most 4-year college programs come with a set of general education requirements, intended to ensure all students receive a broad education, with knowledge of topics outside of their chosen field of study.

Stands for grade point average. This is a reflection of your student’s academic achievement at school. The GPA is updated after each semester’s grades are finalized and reported.

Graduate School
A school attended after a student has received a Bachelor’s degree. Graduate school is where students can receive a Master’s degree. Many universities offer graduate programs in addition to Bachelor’s programs. Graduate school typically takes 2 years to complete.

Graduate Student
Current university student pursuing a degree program after Bachelor’s level. These include Master’s programs and doctoral programs, which typically may take longer and require more independent research. You might encounter graduate students in your dorms as Area Coordinators or in the classroom as Teaching/Teacher’s Assistants.

GRE (Graduate Record Exam)
Also known as the “General GRE”, the GRE is a standardized admissions test required of most graduate school programs. It has three sections: two written essays, multiple choice verbal, and multiple choice mathematics. This is a timed, paid exam.

GRE Subject Test
The GRE subject test is a series of multiple choice standardized tests that are designed to test a graduate school applicant’s specific subject knowledge. These are only required by certain colleges/universities and by particular programs. The topics offered are: Biology, Chemistry, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology. These are timed, paid tests.

GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test)
Most MBA programs require their applicants to complete the GMAT.

HIPAA Release Form
The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) gives your student a right over the privacy of their medical records when they turn 18. A HIPAA Release Form gives you, as their parent, the ability to access their medical records, and make important medical decisions for them in the case of an emergency.

A term for the emotional stress our students undergo when they miss being home. Homesickness is most common in the beginning of freshman year, when many students live away from home for the first time in their life. Homesickness can be associated with college depression.

Independent Study
A type of non-traditional course that allows students to work outside of the classroom. Independent study is usually not heavily supervised, and the student develops the topic they wish to pursue.

In-State Student
A status conferred onto students who have established residence in the same state as the college they’re attending. In-state students pay much less in tuition than nonresident students.Internship

Usually a non-tenure track person under a teaching contract at the college/university. This person usually is highly qualified and might even be a doctoral student.

In-state Tuition
Given that public colleges and universities are funded through state taxes, state residents are able to attend public institutions at reduced cost. The cost to residents from other states is known as out-of-state tuition.

A temporary paid or unpaid position that typically consists of the organization exchanging relevant experience for the intern’s service. Internships can last as little as 1 week and as long as 12 months.

Labs are supplemental courses often required alongside physical science lectures. Students attend the lecture and the lab in the same week to perform experiments detailed in the assigned lab journal. These are typically longer in duration than the lecture because the TA or GA will be walking you through each step of the lab assignment before you complete it yourself. In introductory level courses, attendance is large so expect to be put in groups when completing this work. For more intense labs you will perform the experiment, and then after you will write a lab report.

Lectures are class meetings at designated times and locations, where a professor or instructor will give an oral presentation to their students on course material. Most times, the professor or instructor will use a PowerPoint to illustrate or highlight ideas. The best way to get through a lecture is to come prepared to take notes, not just on the presentation but on points made verbally.

Letter of Recommendation
A letter written by your student’s high school teacher, employer, or mentor, explaining to a college admissions department why the student would be a good fit for their school.

Liberal Arts
Refers to non-technical, vocational fields of study, including literature, art, mathematics, philosophy, and social and natural sciences.

LLC (Living Learning Community)
An LLC is a group of students living on the same floor of a residence hall on the basis of common major, interest, or affiliation. Students living in an LLC enjoy the bonds of commonality among their neighbors and often have access to additional, exclusive resources and events.

The Law School Admission Test is created to specifically examine the skills needed for success in law school. This is a timed, paid exam that is required in a law school application.

The primary focus of study in a 4-year degree. For example, your student might major in biology, philosophy, or aerospace engineering.

Master’s Degree
A degree received in graduate school, post-undergrad. Master’s degrees usually take two years to complete.

Stands for Master of Business Administration. An MBA is a type of Master’s degree, and typically requires a Bachelor’s degree to pursue.

Earn to Learn FL Matched Savings for Education Scholarship
Our scholarship is a 1, 2 or 4 year Florida Prepaid College Foundation plan that is awarded to students based on the college or university they have been accepted to attend. Qualified students must meet these criteria, click here. Additionally, Matched Savings Scholars are assigned a Near Peer Coach for success, required to complete personal finance training and open a Florida 529 Savings Plan.

Meal Plan
The plan that dictates how many meals a student can eat at on-campus dining facilities. Some meal plans also include a discretionary spending fund that can be used as cash at campus restaurants or snack shops.

MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test)
The MCAT is the multiple choice, standardized test required by almost all medical schools. This is a timed, paid exam designed to test your critical thinking, problem solving, and concept knowledge.

Exams that occur in the middle of a semester, to test a student’s grasp of topics covered in a course up to that point. Midterms are typically weighted more heavily than other tests and coursework, but not as heavily as finals.

A secondary focus of study, typically earned in tandem with a major. Your student, for example, might graduate with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry.

Multicultural Affairs: Multicultural Affairs
Offices work across campuses to support intercultural dialogue, awareness, advocacy, and a respect for diversity. They provide bystander intervention training, zone training, Ally training, etc.

Status applied to students who do not live in the same state as the university they’re attending. Nonresidents usually pay much higher tuition than in-state students.

Off Campus Living
Your student doesn’t have to live in a dorm. Off campus living refers to any living arrangement not facilitated by the college. It could be in a rented house, apartment, or at home with you.

Office Hours
These are the times that your professors and instructors are required to be available to you outside of class. The days, times, and locations are almost always listed on the syllabus given to you during the first week of class. Go to your professors office hours if you are having trouble understanding the material, if you are looking for feedback on an important paper, or just drop by to be friendly with them. Professors and instructors appreciate genuine positive feedback on their lectures and for people to actually show up to their office hours.

Also known as an ombudsman or an ombud, the ombudsperson is an advocate for fairness and equality. The ombud is an independent, neutral, and confidential office for students, staff, and faculty to register complaints and concerns.

College orientation is a chance for your student to go to their college before freshman year begins to get a tour of the campus and ask questions.

Out-of-State Tuition
Given that public colleges and universities are funded through state taxes, state residents are able to attend public institutions at reduced cost. The cost to residents from other states is known as out-of-state tuition.

Parking Decal
In order to park on campus without getting ticketed, booted, or towed, visit your college’s department of parking and transportation to get a parking decal.

Part Time College Student
A student who does not have a full course load. A student taking fewer than 12 credit hours in any given semester is typically considered a part time college student.

Pass/Fail Course
A class in which no grade is given — a student simply passes or fails.

Pell Grant
A federal grant that provides aid for students that need to pay for college. These are offered to students with financial aid that are earning their first bachelor’s degree. You must fill out a FAFSA to be considered for a Pell Grant.

Copying some or all of someone else’s work and claiming it as your own. Plagiarism is taken seriously in college and could result in an F, academic probation, or expulsion.

A term for any college, university, or certificate study undertaken after high school.

Graduate level classes that are designed to give students an opportunity to engage in practical or applied learning opportunities. Education majors, Social Workers, Nurses, Speech Pathologists, and others often require the completion of practicums.

A course a student must complete before taking another specific course. For example, Calculus 1 is a pre-requisite to Calculus 2 — a student can’t take the latter without having passed the former.

Stands for Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test. It’s a Pre-SAT, which serves to give high school students a chance to practice for the real deal. It’s typically taken in the sophomore or junior year of high school.

Often referred to as “full professors,” this designation means the professor is tenured and has exhausted all promotions beyond those of special distinctions. Not all college/university teachers are “Professors” this title is given to individuals who have earned their doctorate degree and have been hired onto the prestigious “tenure track” jobs. These positions offer job security and promote the publication of research. The road to tenure involves different benchmarks along the way. See also Associate Professor and Assistant Professor.

Occasionally referred to as the Chief Academic Officer or Vice President of Academic Affairs, the Provost is the senior academic administrator at colleges and universities in charge of overseeing academic, research, and curriculum affairs at the institution.

Recommendation Letter
Many college programs, scholarships, and jobs require applicants to provide recommendation letters. These letters should be provided by a respected superior such as a professor, work superior, or person otherwise in excellent standing. Some programs prefer the applicant not to have access to the letter’s contents prior to submission, so be sure to stay abreast of these expectations prior to asking for a letter!

A campus office responsible for managing course registration, student registration, student matriculation requirements, and creating master schedules/course offerings.

The period in which a student can sign up for the classes they wish to take in a semester.

Research Assistant
Often graduate students, research assistants are part time employees paid to assist the tenure-track professor staff perform research key to their scholarly projects. Research Assistants sometimes lead labs or instruct students as part of their duties.

Research Paper
An essay that argues your own interpretation or analysis through the examination of scholarly resources related to this topic. Voices from the field illustrate how informed you on on the topic, and give strength to your own insights.These papers are more than a report on what scholars have to say on your subject, these resources should be used to support or contrast your own point of view.

Resident Assistant (RA)
An older student, usually a junior or senior, who lives in a section or floor of a dormitory and oversees student relations. RAs are often expected to be mentors and advisors, and they also organize events and activities for dorm residents.

Room and Board
The price paid to cover on-campus living and meal plan expenses, usually paid for a semester or year at a time.

Most dorms are shared by two students. A roommate is the other person your student shares their dorm with.

Stands for the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Like the SAT, it is used by many schools to determine a prospective student’s eligibility. It is usually taken in the spring semester of the junior year of high school, and can be retaken in the fall of the senior year of high school.

Teachers often require students to answer multiple choice test answers on the scantron sheet. These “fill in the bubble” style responses save instructors time, as they are graded by machine.

Scholarly Resource
Scholarly resources are the most credible resources available. Scholarly resources are those that have been written by experts in the field and have also been published in peer-reviewed journals, books, or websites. As a rule, websites that end in “.com” are not scholarly. Look for “.edu” or “.org” addresses instead. Your campus library is your touchpoint for scholarly resources.

Section Number
While course numbers refer to the names of classes offered, section numbers correspond to the exact time, day, and instructor you are taking this class. Take for example WRIT101-89. Here the course number is “WRIT 101.” The section number is “89.” It is important to use these numbers to identify yourself when you email professors, turn in assignments, or take exams.

A financial award to help your student pay for college.

A half year of college. There is a fall semester and a spring semester. Most courses are one semester long.

A social organization for college women. Many sororities operate their own houses where members live and host events.

Student Essay
A personal essay submitted as part of a college application, typically written on the subject of why a student believes they should be accepted to the school.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. STEM is used to refer to this general field of study.

Student Union
Typically located in the front or middle of campus, the Student Union is a space for students to meet and hold events, use the game room and study spaces, or visit the information desk for general campus questions. Many offices are typically housed in the student union.

Study Groups
A group of students that meets outside of class to review information, compare notes, and study for exams together. These can be informal groups of students or they might be lead by a Teacher’s Assistant.

Study Abroad
Many programs offer the ability to study abroad for a semester, in which your student can live in another country while attending school there.

A general summary of a course handed out to students at the beginning of a semester.

Teaching Assistant (TA)
Many large classes employ teaching assistants to help the professor. A TA will usually teach recitations outside of a lecture, in which smaller groups of students review the material covered in the lecture. A TA may also hold office hours where students can come ask questions.

A tenured professor has achieved a level of expertise and publication that has secured their academic appointment indefinitely. Tenure can only be rescinded do to legal cause.

TOEFL Test of English as a Foreign Language
This exam is often taken by students wishing to demonstrate their English language proficiency at the university level. This exam is typically used in lieu of the SAT/ACT exams by students for whom English is their second language.

Similar to a dissertation, a thesis is often required at the end of a graduate program, and sometimes an undergraduate program. A thesis is a paper summarizing a student’s finding on their chosen topic of research.

A transcript is an overview of a student’s academic progress — it usually includes their GPA and total credit hours.

Transfer Credits
Credits that can be transferred from one school and applied toward a degree at another.

The Federal TRiO Programs (TRiO) are federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. Services may vary at each institution of higher learning, but their offerings include specialized tutoring, financial aid and academic advising, and other opportunities for academic development.

The amount paid to attend a college.

Tuition Differential Fee
A fee charged by universities, this fee is added to tuition fund academic development and undergraduate services. Some universities have waived this fee for Florida Prepaid students. To find out what fees your college/university applies to their students, visit your campus Financial Aid office.

An undergraduate is any student pursuing a 4-year Bachelor’s degree.

Virtual Tour
When you can’t do a campus visit, a virtual tour is often an option. This is a tour hosted online, either through an interactive website or as part of a live video stream presented by the university.

Wait List
A list of prospective students who have not been officially accepted to a university, but could still be in the coming months. Being put on a wait list is a way for a college to tell a student that they may be accepted in the near future, depending on if they still have openings as the beginning of the school year nears. Being waitlisted is not a guarantee of an offer. In fact, it is often the opposite — many schools only admit a small percentage of waitlisted students.

If your student leaves a course after the add/drop period is over, it is called a withdraw. While withdrawal does not affect a student’s GPA, it is shown on their transcript. Withdraw can also refer to term withdrawal, in which a student stops taking all their courses for the rest of a semester.

Work Study Program
A federal program which provides universities with funding to hire students for part-time jobs to help them pay for school while they attend.

Don’t Stop Now — Keep Getting Prepared for College!

Students and their parents are likely to have a lot of questions about the college experience, even after reading this list of terms. Earn to Learn FL is here to help you on your college adventure, with curated information for parents and students.